Celibacy: Everyday Presentations

Tue, 12 Dec 1995 10:36:48 CST

Douglas Drozdow-St. Christian proposes an interesting list differing a
good bit from my typology. As he points out, he is defining "celibacy"
as "voluntary refusal of sexual intimacy," where I define it simply as
the state of having no spouse. He is right that my approach lumps
together what are usually assumed to be highly disparate phenomena;
this, however, may be a strength rather than a weakness because it can
help us consider things in a new and possibly fruitful light. I don't
think his definition--which seems to be what E.J. Sobo has in mind with
her tentative title "Not Tonight"--will advance things much, for this
reason: We are unlikely to be able even to identify, reliably, either
persons or events that qualify as "voluntary refusal of sexual
intimacy." The terms are too vague, and the behavior too private. The
state of being unmarried is much more reliably identifiable and public
(though as Douglass--and anthropology texts--point out, a crystal-clear
definition of marriage is elusive). Also, my typology focuses
explicitly on public explanations of celibacy (as spouselessness), so
the explanations typologized,as well as the phenomenon they aim to
explain, are available for interobserver-reliable study. My guess is
that spouselessness, in its underlying causation, is a much more unitary
phenomenon than the everyday presentations lead us to believe. I
already see evidence for this in a few of the posts, and hope to have
more to say about it in the future. --Bob Graber